GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — When Julian Diaz Williams appeared in district court for a status conference Aug. 13, he carried a folded piece of poster board, a black and white composition book and some other pieces of paper. He placed the items on the lectern and stood quietly while his attorney Julita Leavell, who appeared telephonically, and prosecutor R. David Pederson talked about his cases.
Williams, 28, of Albuquerque, has two cases pending in 11th Judicial District Court and McKinley County Magistrate Court. In the district court case, he is facing charges of shooting at or from a motor vehicle, aggravated assault against a household member and battery against a household member. In the other case, he is facing charges of bribery of a witness and assault against a household member.
Leavell told Judge Lyndy Bennett that Williams had graduated from the 28-Day Treatment Program at the McKinley County Adult Detention Center the previous Friday and has a bed available at another long-term rehabilitation center. Leavell asked that her client be released to the new rehab program while she and Pederson work on resolving Williams’ cases, possibly with a global plea.
Pederson said the cases were troubling, however, because they involve the alleged use of a gun in a domestic situation and because Williams has a criminal record — though not an extensive one.
“We will certainly try to resolve everything he has pending, but I take firearms cases very seriously, especially ones where a weapon was discharged,” Pederson said. “By good fortune or happenstance, nobody was injured or wounded.”
Leavell said drugs “are very much an issue” for Williams and again asked Bennett to release her client, noting that much could be done in the meantime for Williams in terms of rehab.
Bennett, however, said he was not prepared to release Williams at that time. He told the attorneys that if they came up with a plea agreement that included a requirement for rehab, he would certainly consider it.
“I’m on board with the state in this matter,” Bennett said. “Using a firearm and discharging it is a very serious thing, especially when it involves domestic violence, so I’m not prepared to release Mr. Williams at this point.”
As is typical for defendants in most criminal proceedings, Williams did not speak. Nobody asked him about the items he had carried in. When the judge and attorneys finished their business, Williams picked his stuff back up and quietly shuffled out of the courtroom in his orange jumpsuit and shackles.
‘THAT DOESN’T KNOCK MY HOPE’
Two days later, Aug. 15, Williams was in high spirits as he celebrated his sobriety alongside three other new graduates from the local jail’s treatment program.
“The judge is second-guessing my release, but that doesn’t knock my hope,” Williams said.
He said the poster board he had carried into the courtroom was a calendar. It contained dates of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that Williams planned to attend if he were to be released.
“So I don’t fall into the negative circle of relapse,” he said.
He wanted to show the judge that he had a plan for the outside and was not simply moping around in jail. He also had certificates of completion for various classes he completed during the treatment program, including subjects of domestic violence and how to be a better parent.
“To receive these is such a blessing,” he said. “I’ve never been awarded for something before.”
‘I CHANGED ME’
Williams also had his black and white composition book with him. This time, however, he was given the opportunity to speak and read from his notebook. He said his “celly,” or cellmate, had graduated from the program and left the jail. With nobody to talk to, Williams said he got lost in his thoughts one night and decided to put pen to paper.
He read a personal essay entitled, “J-Pod Mafia,” a reference to the area where the treatment clients reside. Williams talked about his past as a “dope fiend,” wearing a “mask of faking it to make it.” He said he didn’t care about his life, but the treatment program helped him come to accept that he was living in denial before and that he has a chance at recovery now.
“I changed me,” he said.
He brought the room to laughter and smiles with anecdotes about the program and the jail staff as everybody ate pizza, fried chicken and pozole.
Williams said drugs and alcohol reeled him into the wrong circle, but he saw change within other treatment graduates. He looked up to them for influence, and now he’s looking forward to going in the right direction himself.
He said he wants to find ways to give back. Inside the jail, he has provided haircuts for other inmates and enjoys cooking for them with real ingredients such as jalapeños and onions to “spice up someone’s life.”
“It puts a smile on my face,” he said.
Williams’ next district court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 15.
Information from: Gallup Independent, http://www.gallupindependent.com